A recent gift sent me on a very unexpected, and somewhat brief, journey into the self-care world. Granted, I’m flirting a little with some aspects of the concept, and find myself eavesdropping on conversations happening in the self-care coffee shop of my imagination, but I am still figuring out how to fully embrace it.
It’s like seeing a stranger from across the room who takes your breath away – rude! So gorgeous, but still – and rather than walk across and introduce yourself, you stand right where you are, journeying only deeper and deeper into your own head, talking yourself out of taking the risk of saying a simple hello because WHAT IF THEY SAY HI BACK AND THEN YOU HAVE TO TALK AND THEN YOU FALL IN LOVE AND THEN YOU GET YOUR HEART BROKEN AND FEEL STUPID AND DIE ALONE?! I mean, what even is the point, you know?
So, uh, yeah. That’s what delving into self-care kind of feels like for me. It seems too risky to allow myself to feel comfortable with this concept, especially when the concept usually costs a decent amount of money to maintain and so therefore I won’t be able to keep up with it and I’ll just be sad and notice all of my body’s weird tweaks even more after having them soothed away and and and and….
So anyway! Last year I was given a gift certificate for a Cedar Enzyme Bath at Osmosis Day Spa & Sanctuary in Freestone, California. I was familiar with Osmosis, not only because I hear tales of wonder about them on a regular basis, but because I had been there once before – also the result of a gift certificate, that time for a massage. Have I been wanting to go back ever since? Yes! Have I? No.
Let me stop here for just a sec and lay down a few ‘I Get It’ observations for you.
- Self-care costs money. I get it. It’s not cheap, either. I get it! For eight years I owned a used children’s clothing store in a very wealthy town, at which I made only enough money to pay my most basic bills. During this time I went through a divorce, was on a first-name basis with almost everyone at my credit card company because they called me every single week asking when I planned to pay them, drove around a free car with passenger seat permanently stuck as far back and twisted to the right as it could go and also rained inside, and shared a tiny apartment with my two delightful children. In hindsight, this might have been a really great time to pick up meditation, at the very least. Anyhoo – even now, I’m a writer with a feast-or-famine income who picks up shifts at the local motel for extra money (and also to look other humans in the face from time to time). None of these things pay well, and I think of this as I’m considering/longing for a massage, pedicure, retreat or cedar enzyme bath.
- Self-care takes time. I get it. I mean, even if your chosen self-care is a simple relaxing bath, that still gobbles up a good hour (or…? however long you bathe for, you do you), and during that time one could fold so much laundry! Or conduct so many phone meetings! Or help with so much homework! Or watch three full episodes of Schitt’s Creek!
- Self-care is…well, self-indulgent. Oh my god; I GET IT! This is a hard one for me. My internal midwestern nag is like “uuuuhem *chuckle chuckle* really? You think you’re just gonna leave allll this stuff that needs to be done sitting here in your life and, what? Relax? Yeah, no. You know the rules: you’re not allowed to take care of yourself until you’ve taken care of every one and every thing else.
So, perhaps the above might help explain why I let my gift certificate to Osmosis nearly expire before whapping myself on the forehead and having a good sit-down with my inner-Amanda to find out what in the actual heck was going on.
See, I have a tendency to let self-care gifts just…float out of my consciousness. I once took more than two years to redeem a gifted massage. I’ve had a certificate for a foot massage and reflexology session bouncing around my bedroom ever since my boyfriend gave it to me four years ago. It’s so old the business isn’t even at the Santa Rosa address listed on it anymore!
It’s not that I don’t want or need or strongly desire and weep for these things. It’s that I never learned to take the time for them.
So, okay, I’m learning. Happy ending: I got to Osmosis. Baby steps.
The drive out to Osmosis Day Spa is relaxing in and of itself. I had a few errands to run beforehand (of course…can’t just straight-up relax, you know?) so I headed out by way of Petaluma. The hills were green, the cows were sweet, the sky was wide open. The day was overcast but that really makes no difference in Sonoma County – it has beauty that transcends gloomy weather.
Upon arrival I was invited to enjoy some tea and snacks in the enclosed, heated waiting area which, in finer weather, is probably a lovely place to loll in the sunshine but on this day was lovely to just generally loll. I had a little tea, almonds and dried mango while playing solitaire on my phone, as one who is not completely accustomed to relaxation might be apt to do.
I was then directed to a small room, one wall of which was floor-to-ceiling accordion windows. Beyond these was a beautiful, peaceful, private zen garden, just for me. I couldn’t believe it! I wandered around in my robe (I skipped the part of the story where I changed, just use your imagination), stopping to admire the gently babbling stream, saying whassup to Buddha, and eventually settled back in my mediation room where I actually – gasp! – closed my eyes and did some slow, deep breathing.
Soon my bath attendant, Jenny, came to describe the process I would soon be experiencing, including what made up the cedar bath (cedar, redwood and rice bran), how it is heated, how hot it is, and what I could and should expect both during and after my treatment. All the while, she was pouring and serving me tea, also listing off what was in it: all I remember is yarrow. It was wonderful.
The bath itself was intense. It was hot, heavy and smelled like the forest floor.
I. Loved. It. So. Much.
I felt like I was being thoughtfully covered by a wood nymph’s heated weight blanket, or like I was being ensconced in my very own Temple Grandin squeeze machine made of soft bark and mythological fairy wings. You get the point – I thought it was so, so relaxing. I do, however, love a hot bath and can handle a decent amount of heat, so be warned if that isn’t your thing: it’s hot.
I then showered off, re-robed myself, and was led to the softly darkened Sound Therapy room, where I lay down, put on some headphones, and listened to the sound of rainfall. I did pause my relaxation for just a sec to chuckle at the fact that it was actually raining quite heavily outside at that very moment, but had I skipped the session for the real thing I would have missed the birdsong and gentle synth overlays which, let’s admit it: totally seal the deal for a good rainfall soundtrack.
After that, I was free to go back to my completely unorganized, tight-shouldered life, or to wander the Zen Garden at my leisure. Never one to jump ship mid-experience, I chose leisure. Plus, there was a break in the rain so it seemed wasteful not to take advantage.
The path to the meditation garden is lined in vibrant bamboo and leads to an open pagoda-style meditation building with pillows on which to sit and contemplate nothing. Equally meditative is the path within the garden, leading one in a circle past mossy rocks, lush plant life, a Buddha here and there, and another gentle stream babbling and toppling away. It was, for lack of a better descriptor, pure zen.
My greatest takeaway from this experience didn’t surprise me, and it shouldn’t surprise you: I need to allow myself the time and space for more self-care. Whether it’s that free bath at home, or skipping a nice dinner out to use the money toward a healing treatment out in the beautiful world we live in.
At the very least, I can give myself the gift of redeeming all these damn gift certificates, aka relaxing treatments just waiting to be enjoyed!
Okay; here I go.